Adrian Dening's Stars Over Somerset

    Monday 8th to Sunday 14th August 2022

    On Friday 12th we have a Full Moon. Many of the Lunar visual effects I have mentioned in the past require Sunlight to be falling on the surface at an oblique angle, but some are better seen around the time of a Full Moon and these are called Albedo Features. These large features are so named because they have a high contrast with the area surrounding them. One such example is what looks like a bright swirl called Reiner Gamma located in Oceanus Procellarum or the Ocean of Storms.

    If you go outside around 11pm on 12th, the Moon will be located towards the south east, with Saturn a little to the right of it and Jupiter on the left looking more to the east.

    Oceanus Procellarum is situated on the west side of the Moon's face and I have included some diagrams courtesy of Wikipedia to help find the swirl.

    The origin of Lunar Swirls is not fully understood, but believed to be associated with magnetic activity. Several robotic probes have landed in the Ocean of Storms, including Surveyor 3 in 1967. The Apollo 12 astronauts famously touched-down only 165m away from Surveyor 3 a couple of years later and retrieved several items from it to return to the Earth.

    It will be necessary to use a telescope for a good view of the Reiner Gamma swirl and at the same time, you could take a look at Saturn's rings. Next week, Saturn is approaching a point in its orbit called "opposition" when the Earth is directly between the planet and the Sun. This gives the best opportunity to observe Saturn's rings as they will be at their brightest.

    Screenshots courtesy of Stellarium

    Copyright Adrian Dening and Radio Ninesprings 2022

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